Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: The Battle

On Saturday, we began to put out our Christmas decorations.  I don't know about where you stand, but I want desperately for Christmas to be about the birth of baby Jesus, not Santa Claus, not presents and toys, but Jesus - God stepping down into our world, God with us!

I have a kid's nativity set - it is the Little People version.  Each year, I search for the best way to share the Christmas message with my kids.  Last year, I purchased a advent nativity calendar, where the kids can stick on a new element of the Christmas story into the scene and read a piece of the story each day the 24 days before Christmas.  The stickers don't stick so well, so this year, I purchased the same sort of thing but it is a felt board, and I can use the story book from last year with the new scene.  At the store, the clerk and I carefully counted to make sure I had all 24 pieces, and I did.  I got home, laid the bag in the basement, and then got it out on Saturday morning to hang up.

While I was getting it out, I was also chasing DoodleBug around the basement.  She had followed me into the basement and was getting into mischief.  In the meantime, I was dropping two of the pieces onto the floor unbeknownst to me.  When I made it upstairs, I started sorting the pieces to find that four were missing.  Big sigh!  I went to check everywhere I had been, only to find two on the steps.  I was a little upset, as I walked around a few times not to find any more of the pieces.  Daniel and the kids came into the room and recognized my frustration.  I snapped and said that I just wanted some space.  The response I got was, "Now it's Christmas!" said in overt sarcasm.

I was defeated in that moment.  "Great - now I have a reputation for making Christmas this thing I don't want it to be."  The very reason why Christmas is a struggle for me had come to pass, and I wondered if Christmas could really be celebrated in its purest form.  No longer was a Jesus an infant in a manger in a nativity scene, but he was a man on a cross, and I was left to wonder if this man I worshiped was just going to die right before my eyes.  The battle raged within me - I am a sinner and there is no hope for me said my thoughts.

A mere man or a God?

I realized that Jesus is no more in the nativity sets and scenes than He is in Santa Claus.  We can take clean elements and make them dirty when our hearts do not lay prostrate before Him.  An idol can be formed of any image - even baby Jesus in a manger or a few lost stars on the basement floor.

My idol - a complete set, a few missing stars?

The battle of my mind continued on, and I wondered who would get the victory.  Satan?  Christ?  Who would win?  Where would my thoughts continue to go?  Could I really be free from the games Satan wanted me to play?  Was Christ a mere man on that cross?

I realized that Jesus came to die for this very moment, for what was happening in my now. Oh glorious day!  I did not have to fear who would get victory or who would gain control of the battle that waged within me.  No, that Christ was not a mere man who just died on the cross.  Nay!  He was and is God with us, and He has already won the victory.  He died but he arose!  He was and is truly God, who has won all the battles victoriously.

I am free to be a new me who is not defined by the Christmas struggle, but by the freedom He gives me to be His child, worshipping at His feet.  Not worshipping the elements of Christmas, but the One True God, who is "before all things, and in Him all things hold together...so that in everything He might have supremacy." (Col 1:17, 18)

Worship At His Feet Pictures, Images and Photos
No more Christmas idols for me

I suspect God allowed me to drop those stars and find them later to show me that Christmas is about God living in me.  My children are entrusted to find Him at the time when He will open their eyes.  The story is vital to tell, but it is meaningless if I don't live the story that I tell.  So I watch for them to see God living in me, as He redeems me every day, even in this moment.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Galatians 2:20

What Christmas idols are you battling?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Thanksgiving

I am not sure that we can be truly worshipful until we are truly thankful.  When I find myself in combat over the Christmas holiday, it is because I am ungrateful in the direction I feel lead.  And sometimes that is my own doing.  So today I count my blessings.

I am thankful for:
  1. my husband, who I grow more and more in love with each day.  I am grateful to God that He grows us and binds us together.
  2. my children.  I am thankful for the noise and the life that they bring to our home.
  3. Princess.  She has become quite a joy to me as she's gotten older.  I am thankful that she is learning to read.
  4. Speed Racer.  He is sensitive and loving, and I am thankful for his eyes that speak without speaking and for his bright smile.
  5. DoodleBug.  My kids all look very similar, but Doodle reminds me of my dad, and I find peace in that.  I am thankful for feeling confidant in motherhood with her, for her being the third and possibly final child.
  6. You - for reading my words and encouraging me by doing so.
  7. The freedom to celebrate the holidays in the way that would be pleasing to the Lord.
I will continue counting as the holiday season progresses.  Join me.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking Back Christmas

I realize I am doing something many hate.  I am posting about Christmas before Thanksgiving is done.  But it is that time of year again - the time of year that I hate to love and love to hate.  I struggle to remain focused on the true meaning of the season of both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Last year I participated in Sarah Markley's 100 joys, but this year I am going to lead my own Christmas series.  I hope to post lists of my own blessings and joys as I did last year, while also thinking about the Christmas season.  I will write posts in order to refocus my own Christmas battles and to combat the enemy's desire to keep me from worshiping our Savior.  In doing so, I hope to help you refocus as well, so it will be a combination of a counting of blessings as well as devotions to the real meaning of the season.  I don't seem to be able to stick to it if I say I will post every day, so I'm not going to say that.  I hope you will join me in Taking Back Christmas.  Feel free to link up, add your own blessings, or leave a note in the comments on how you are Taking Back Christmas. 

I do hope to come back tomorrow, counting my blessings.  Join me, and be blessed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Valleydale

I am not sure how I will find the right words to say, but here goes...

The face of my church is changing.  In August I posted about the passing of Rob Murray.  At the beginning of October, our beloved missions pastor resigned, and just Sunday, our beloved senior pastor finished his last day at Valleydale.  Certainly, if Rob was considered the "face of Valleydale," Calvin Kelly was the "voice of Valleydale."  He was our faithful shepherd for 27 years.  That, in and of itself, is a great accomplishment.  How many churches or pastors could boast such a thing?  In my own growing up life, normal for me was having a new pastor every 3, 4, or 5 years.  I have been at Valleydale since 2000, so Calvin Kelly has been my pastor for 11 years - longer than any other pastor I've known.  Being a pastor at the same place speaks volumes in my humble opinion of the tremendous love he held and most likely still holds for his beloved Valleydale Church.  He finished strong with great courage and bravery that will not be forgotten.  I only wish I had greater words to write a more fitting tribute.

November is a time of grief for me as I remember my earthly father who was both born and who died during this month.  Now I actively grieve again, this time the letting go of one of my spiritual fathers.  Due to my lack of understanding of the church government, I know I've not always thought the right things or even said the right things about Valleydale, but she is my beloved church - a place of grace for me.  When I started to Southeastern Bible College {before kids}, I was the only one in my class who could communicate the purpose of her church to her class:

G - glorify God through worship,
R - relate to other in biblical community,
A - apply the truth of God's word through discipleship,
C - cultivate an attitude of service,
E - expand God's kingdom through evangelism.

In the years that have passed since those SEBC days, we've simplified our purpose to: worship, connect, serve, but it is still a place of grace.

When I started here, I was in the darkest days of my life and darker they became.  But truth was instilled in me and Christ set me free from the pit.  This past year, I've been seeing God's work in Valleydale.  I was both shocked and not surprised by Calvin's decision.  Shocked because that's not the direction I wanted to see, but not surprised because God's activity is unmistakable for Valleydale right now.  Through my eyes, I wish God's plan was taking another path for Calvin (as well as Saint) such that they were staying with us; however, I see and know that it is God's good plan for us, and I submit to that.

At the beginning of the year, Calvin shared the State of the Church address, and I encourage Valleydale members to go back and read this post to read the 7 things expected of every church member, to remind us of our obligation and of the things God has done in us.  What I believe God is leading me to post for encouragement to Valleydale is Ephesians 4:1 through 5:21.  I hope you will read it and allow God to speak to you through it.  Church transition can be a scary thing, but we must stand united and not allow our church to be divided during this time.

I am a mere eyebrow hair when it comes to my part at Valleydale, and no one has asked me to post this, but I am confidant in His work in Valleydale and in me.

Calvin resigns
Saint's final blog post


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